A look of entitlement!?!? You clearly haven’t been reading your book of bandicoot behaviour, Captain Jones. That, I’ll have you know, was a look of “I’M HUNGRY! WHERE’S THE GALLEY?”
We launch on an auspicious day: 10 February, Plimsoll Day, the birthday of my hero Samuel Plimsoll, a Victorian who campaigned for the safety of sailors. Gave his name to the load line that shows how deep in the water a vessel can sit. And also to the shoes schoolchildren wear for PE which were named after him by a sales rep called Mr Lace (it’s true – Lace who was in shoes) because, being rubber underneath and canvas above, they can only be safely immersed in water up to a certain point, like a merchant ship.
There’s our first story, though a true one. Perhaps I shall give my plimsolls to The Story Museum.
Call me Captain Jones. I run a tight ship and am master of a glorious mission, a quest to find the 1001 objects and moments in your favourite fictional stories, which will take us into uncharted waters. Or uncharted skies. As well as lands with fantastic maps.
Today we were to set sail at 0800 hours from the Museum in our fabulous vessel, the Ever After, a Prattleship-Class Narrative Ark, which will be our home for the duration of the voyage. I’d sent Lookout Kate on a last-minute errand, and meanwhile intended to organise a human chain to load the kitbags and hammocks and collecting gear on board, but some of the rest of the crew had gone AWOL. (I think they’re going to need a firm hand. Proper respect should be paid to my experience and my gold braid.)
The only early boarder was the bandicoot, and she’s no use. Came trundling up the gangplank on the dot with an expression of entitlement. As if she belongs. Twist stowed away once somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere, and has been tagging along ever since. (I confess I’ve got oddly attached to the sneaky piece of work, despite her grumpiness. I suppose if all your relatives were extinct, you might get a bit glum too.)
The others showed up soon after. The Science Officer and the Ship’s Artist had gone exploring. Too many objects of interest in the Museum, apparently.
The Navigator, Satnav Steven, turned up late because he’d got lost.
Still, just a bit behind schedule, we got everything stowed in the Never-Ending Store and were rewarded with breakfast supplied by Cook Conomos, accompanied by a loud tirade about how the timing of her Greek pancakes had been messed up by the delay. At least this time she stopped short of throwing pans. (Though mostly she throws them at Twist.)
In case she changed her mind, I retired to the safety of the bridge with the Navigator to plot our course. It’s a tricky business. Some directions are more specific than others: follow “the yellow brick road” or the train from Platform 9 and 3 /4; “second star on the right and straight on till morning”; “sail away for a year and a day”; “look toward the sun and walk into the sky”; “down the rabbit hole”; “through the wardrobe” … Some are very vague indeed: “one does not simply walk into Mordor”.
Am in constant contact with Mission Control at the Museum, which is collecting your ideas to beam up to us. We’ll be sucking and scooping them up through the Horton Hearing Hoover and in the Charlie Bucket, and catching thought bubbles in our Inter-net.
I gave the command to head first for the Land of Laughter. Always a good starting place for a long navigation through stories.
But Satnav Steven had wandered off again. I heard a voice saying “I have nothing to declare but my genius,” and “It is a truth universally acknowledged …” and tracked him down to the Observation Deck.
I had just given the order to weigh anchor and boost the Narrative Thrust, when Copy Kat, on First Watch, sounded the alarm. She thought Lookout Kate was still not aboard. I’d assumed she was, but she couldn’t be found. She has a way of nipping up the rigging when not needed. Could she have slipped? Was she overboard …?